The second large fire near Twizel in five weeks is a devastating blow for the region and reflects a wider issue that needs addressing, a North Otago farmer says.
A fire at Lake Ōhau ripped through about 1608ha after beginning yesterday morning and is still being fought this morning.
The fire was tracking south into grassy farmland and Department of Conservation land yesterday afternoon.
Five weeks ago, a fire near Lake Pukaki, near Twizel, burned through more than 3500ha of land, much of it wilding pines, on August 30.
North Otago Federated Farmers high country chairman Simon Williamson, a farm owner between Omarama and Twizel, said he had been woken by news of the fire after 3am.
"My neighbour across the road was evacuated ... we were very apprehensive."
Williamson said the retired land the fire was spreading through was a "huge risk" that had not been addressed.
"All this ground that's been locked up and hasn't been grazed is becoming a hazard to life.
"The fuel loading in the land is just huge."
Williamson said having two fires in the past month highlighted the dangers of retired land and wilding pines.
"People are saying they want to lock everything up and create a safe habitat, but you're not locking it up when it's not being grazed or managed ... you get one spark and it spreads and burns everything in sight."
Williamson said he heard of three or four farms that had lost livestock or had to move it.
"It's really disappointing. We've been warning of this for a long time ... once upon a time it was all grazing land.
"There's a mindset that grazing is bad and it kills wildlife, but the reality is these massive blazes are going to happen more and more and spread further and further."
Queenstown-based climate scientist Jim Salinger said Otago's fire season was now prolonged and pronounced due to climate change.
"The fire season is certainly getting earlier.
"These are not spring temperatures, these are summer temperatures ... in Queenstown today it was eight degrees above average."